Spring 2008 Vol. VI, No. 3
Is AUB Green?
Anyone who knows Lebanon also knows
that the AUB campus is one of the rare green spots in Beirut. With its
fine old trees, shaded terraces, trimmed lawns, and impeccable flowerbeds,
the verdant shade of AUB beckons like a welcome oasis in the urban desert.
But just how green is AUB in environmental terms? What is AUB doing to
meet the challenges of global warming, energy conservation, waste management,
and recycling? MainGate went in search of answers, starting with the very
landscape that characterizes the campus.
Under the AUB Middle Campus Landscape (AMICAL) plan, Jala Makhzoumi, coordinator
of AUB’s Landscape Design and Ecological Management Program and Salma
Talhouk, professor of landscape, horticulture, and conservation, have
laid out a blueprint for an ecologically sustainable and climate-friendly
campus. In it, they argue in favor of native plants that are more affordable,
require little irrigation and longterm maintenance, and look beautiful
in their natural surrounding. This recommendation is also in keeping with
the biology and history of the campus and in sharp contrast to the move
towards the standardization of green spaces globally. In addition, there
are environmental savings because alien species incur importation costs
and often have a serious detrimental effect on native plants. AUB has
set its sights on taking the lead, both nationally and regionally, in
advocating sustainability and the prudent management of resources. The
proposed landscape will facilitate the University’s move towards campus-wide
sustainable management as well as showcasing how theory can be turned
It will also probably come as no surprise to AUBites to learn that the
University’s Environmental Health Safety and Risk Management Department
(EHSRM), under the strict management of Azmi Imad, is a leader in the
field in Lebanon. Committed to the safe disposal of hazardous materials,
EHSRM follows stringent international guidelines and makes AUB the first
institution in Lebanon to dispose properly of hazardous chemical, or bio-waste,
generated in lab work and during hospital treatments. Since 1999, 30 tons
have been exported to Europe for safe treatment under the UN Basel Convention.
At the same time, the Health Physics Services (HPS) division of EHSRM,
responsible for safety and disposal of radioisotopes, ionizing, and non
ionizing radiation at AUB, has an agreement with the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), through the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission (LAEC),
to dispose of unwanted radioactive sources, such as Cobalt-60, which is
used in sterilizing medical equipment, radiography, radiotherapy, and
lab work. EHSRM is also credited as being the only organization in Lebanon
that supervises and monitors asbestos abatement projects by encapsulating
the asbestos in concrete for safe burial underground. Asbestos dust is
highly dangerous to human health and must be safely trapped and stored.
Imad expresses concern that there is no other program for this type of
safe disposal in Beirut, especially given the amount of demolition going
on in the city.
While AUB has contracted out the management of its bio-waste, EHSRM closely
monitors and audits the cleaning methods. On average around 18 tons of
biohazardous waste is collected for treatment each month.
Recycling is an important component in any green inventory and the EHSRM
takes pride in being involved in many aspects of AUB’s recycling efforts.
In its own area of expertise, EHSRM has reduced the cost of purchasing
chemicals by recycling around 200 kilograms of hazardous chemicals and
pathology and laboratory medicine each year. It has also helped reduce
hazardous chemical levels by encouraging departments to use less
hazardous materials in areas such as pathology and laboratory
medicine and recommending the phasing out of mercury from the AUB Medical
Center, the only center in Lebanon to do so.
The Campus Recycling Program, which was initiated in l998 by the Biology
Students Society and the Environment Club, was formalized in March 1999,
when President Waterbury appointed the University Recycling Committee
(URC). The AUB campus is now equipped with paper recycling bins and boxes
and collection is coordinated among several university departments, with
support from the Physical Plant team.
In addition to the bins and receptacles dotted around campus that collect
glass, cans, and litter, the University also recycles print cartridges
and ribbons and collects and reforms cooking oil from the cafeteria and
residences. Further recycling initiatives are in the pipeline for plastic,
toner, x-ray films, and batteries.
Recycled plastic furniture, designed and built by the Physical Plant,
is used throughout campus. Marcelino Romanos, director of the Physical
Plant, believes AUB is on the right track with its recycling policy and
energy conservation measures, but, he cautions, it is a never ending process.
Indeed, with so many buildings (58 in all), of different ages and standards
to maintain, Romanos explains that energy saving initiatives must be pursued
one at a time. Each year a new tranche of work is authorized—such as efficient
lighting, automatic sensors for lights and air conditioners, double glazed
window replacement, automated hand washing systems, low flow faucets and
showerheads—in a balancing act that weighs need against budget.
The Energy Research Group of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture
(FEA), led by Professor Sami Karaki, recently conducted an energy analysis
on campus. This systematic audit of eight buildings, based on a US Department
of Energy (DOE) building simulation program, climate data for Beirut,
and data logging of electrical equipment to achieve a baseline energy
scenario, explored low cost energy saving strategies and potential emission
reduction in response to global warming.
Early results have been positive indicating that at least 20 percent of
the energy currently being used could be saved with no sacrifice in comfort
or productivity by careful operation of heating, ventilating and air conditioning
units, and installing high efficiency lighting and energy management control
systems. At the same time, measurement levels of carbon dioxide in high
usage classrooms indicate the need to install fresh air systems.
The audit concludes with a series of recommendations, many of which have
already been implemented on campus during renovations by the Physical
Plant, including seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design, a US Green Building Rating System) certification for new and renovated
Mohammad Tassi, project manager of the Facilities Planning and Design
Unit (FPDU), is Lebanon’s first LEED Accredited Professional. He and Bassem
Barhoumi, director of FPDU, take special pride in the fact that the planned
Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex is the first LEED registered project in
Lebanon. The Charles W. Hostler Student Center and the future Olayan School
of Business will also be showcases for AUB’s commitment to environmentally
sound buildings according to LEED’s six main criteria for sustainability,
which evaluate site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere,
materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation
and design process. Tassi and Barhoumi are quick to stress that AUB’s
commitment to LEED applies to renovations as well as new buildings.
A tour of the Hostler Center provides an exhaustive list of environmentally
friendly features, starting with the fact that the materials that were
excavated were used as backfill on the site and nearby streets and the
University’s attempt to source construction materials from within a radius
of 500 miles. The building itself is a mosaic of open and closed spaces,
light and shade, with soothing water walls and generous rooftop greenery,
walkways, and even “planted walls” protecting outside staircases—all contributing
to natural cooling and carbon emission controls. Key features of the Hostler
Center are its seawater cooling system, the use of non-toxic building
materials, and the intelligent use of solar heating and natural wind cooling
factors. In addition, because of grey water recycling, use of low consumption
faucets, and rain water collection, the use of potable water will be minimized.
The basement of the Hostler Center is a netherworld of energy-efficient
machinery linked to the campus power and steam plants through a subterranean
tunnel beneath the new, “waterless” Green Field. AUB’s power plant has
been run on high grade diesel fuel to reduce air pollution for years.
Thanks to excellent management and maintenance practices, its generators
exceed expectations in terms of cost savings and capacity.
While Physical Plant engineers strive to achieve maximum results, their
academic colleagues at FEA lead the field in research into new and better
energy solutions. Endowed Qatar Chair in Energy Studies and Mechanical
Engineering Professor Nasreen Ghaddar heads a team working closely with
the Lebanese Ministry of Environment. In addition, Karaki works with an
international group charged with designing and testing a hybrid renewable
energy system for arid climate conditions.
The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs
(IFI) has identified over 20 AUB faculty members whose research touches
on climate change and global warming issues. All will become active participants
in IFI’s new Research and Policy Forum on Climate Change in the Arab Region.
This exciting new initiative will facilitate the exchange of information
and ideas through meetings and lectures, as well as sponsoring new research
and establishing a central research database on climate change related
Within a matter of weeks work will begin on the new IFI building on the
site of the old infirmary. When demolition starts, the hard working team
from the Physical Plant, Imad from EHSRM, engineers Barhoumi and Tassi
from FPDU, and many others, will be focused on the safe removal of old
building materials and equipment and the use of best practice methods
to install the new. One feature of the site that will not be disturbed
is an impressive row of tall trees that will provide shade and comfort
as they have always done. Close by, gardeners are planting shrubs and
vines, creating “green walls” along the campus perimeter. This one snapshot
of change and preservation captures AUB’s “green” credentials in every
sense of the word.
Cut your junk mail
Each year millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are used
to create junk mail that never gets recycled.
AUB has set its sights on taking the lead, both nationally
and regionally, in advocating sustainability and the prudent management
of resources. The proposed landscape will facilitate the University’s
move towards campus-wide sustainable management as well as showcasing
how theory can be turned into practice.
Mohammad Tassi, known as “the green guy” to his colleagues in the FPDU,
is devoted to the “greening” of buildings, old and new, on the AUB campus.
Tassi, a project manager with the FPDU, received the LEED accreditation
in June 2007 by demonstrating knowledge of green building practices advocated
by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) for the construction and renovation
of buildings in accordance with the LEED Green Building Rating System.
He is the first LEED-accredited professional at AUB and among the first
ten such accredited professionals in the Middle East.
Tassi strives to bring AUB buildings, new and renovated, in line with
LEED certification. Several new buildings on campus could qualify with
their specialized landscaping, low water consumption, optimized energy
performance, and smart lighting systems. The Hostler Student Center’s
low water-consuming plants, innovative water technology, and other features
make it one campus structure eligible for LEED points.
With a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (1997) and a master’s
degree (2004) in engineering management from AUB, Tassi honed his skills
as a mechanical site engineer with a Lebanese electro-mechanical contracting
company before joining the Physical Plant as a mechanical project engineer.
In January 2003 he became a member of the FPDU, and over the last six
years has worked on more than 90 separate projects on the AUB campus,
among them the Chilled Water Plant, the infrastructure tunnel, the LEED
registered Irani/Oxy Engineering Complex, and the Hostler Center. One
of his favorites, an early FPDU project rehabilitating the polluted indoor
environment in Jafet Library, was particularly challenging because the
work had to be done without disturbing hundreds of studying students.
Tassi works with the University’s Master Plan objectives of “taking the
old buildings and bringing them up to date from the point of view of energy,
comfort, and health.”
Support Farmers Markets
They’re good for your health and the environment: the food tastes better,
and you support local, organic, and independent farmers